Secret Weapon Is Faith
Raising a family and running a business were my priorities in 2001. But I had also just c ompleted my first ballroom dance competition, a hobby that conditioned my body and spirit. I had no risk factors for cancer, and good health at 39 seemed to be something I could count on, didn't expect to change.
No one plans on getting breast cancer. The diagnosis feels like a kick in the gut; your life is completely turned upside down.
I was diagnosed in October 2001 with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. The medical team reacted with an equally aggressive plan for surgery and treatment. Within two weeks I underwent surgery, which revealed Stage 3 cancer in my breast and lymph nodes. A swift treatment protocol was required, including 15 months of chemotherapy and radiation as part of a clinical trial.
The first order of business was to call each employee into my office for prayer. One by one, I prayed with them, giving them my complete trust in caring for our clients and the business I had worked so hard to build over the previous nine years.
Having no control over this situation, it forced me to trust. I had no choice but to rely on my team, my family, my friends and my faith. One of the best things that comes out of an experience like that is you really see the people you have around you. You see the level of love and support others have for you and appreciate it like never before. With such a great support system around me, I resumed work soon after surgery and continued to work throughout the treatment.
My secret weapon on the journey was faith, and I frequently share this message of faith with other cancer patients.
I recall my first chemo treatment and a nurse telling me I would not feel well afterward, describing in detail the horrendous symptoms to come. My response shocked the nurse: “You’re not the boss of me,” I said. “I’m not going to be sick because you say so.”
Mental strength and an unwillingness to accept predications are an important first step toward survival. I never entertained any thoughts that didn’t involve living my best life … and as a result, experienced minimal side effects. I embraced the new normal, continuing to work and grow my business even as I underwent treatment. This challenge would teach me many important lessons about business and life, not the least of which is how to live in the moment.
As I faced 15 months of treatment, I couldn’t think about how long it would be. I truly learned to focus on the day at hand. I know how difficult it is to live in the present, but this journey had to be taken one day at a time. My priority became survival.
When asked, I share important practical advice with other women facing treatment for breast cancer, always willing to provide inspiration and encouragement for the journey. Teri Hansen is president and creative director of Priority Marketing in Fort Myers. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.